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Summer 2017 has been a whirlwind of travel and work. . . it has really flown by! In addition to our trip to Italy (more on that soon) I have also started blogging for Sonesta Hotels, a company I have been fortunate to work with in several capacities over the years.  As part of that, I will be visiting many of their US hotels and sharing my experience on the hotel, the destination, food, and other fun topics so that travelers can get a sense of why to visit.

Check out my first blog posts:

Patio Dining and Live Music at Royal Sonesta Boston

Bottling Custom Wine Gifts for Sonesta ES Suites in Massachusetts

A Poolside Event at Sonesta Philadelphia

It had been ages and ages since I visited Philadelphia, and I was so pleasantly surprised by everything.

I arrived to Philadelphia by Amtrak to the beautiful 30th Street Station. I love grand train stations, and this one was just lovely. I had big plans for the day but otherwise wouldn’t have minded spending some time in the station, marveling at its high ceilings and beautiful detail.

Philadelphia 30th Street Station

I hopped in a taxi from the station, and in less than 10 minutes, I was at the Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square. The hotel is is  stunner, recently re-imagined, and offering a stylish red, gray, and black color scheme with plenty of artsy touches throughout. This is an art hotel in a city that is devoted to the arts, so it is a great spot to rest your head while still being immersed in that art scene.

Philadelphia hotels

Throughout the hotel you can find original art that changes on a regular basis and gives this city hotel a gallery vibe.

Sonesta Philly

They even have their own Warhol Room, a meeting space complete with original artwork by Andy Warhol. The hotel’s proximity to just about everything, including the train station and airport make it perfect for meetings.

Warhol Campbell's Soup

One of the big things I noticed was that, despite being in the heart of Philadelphia, the hotel was so quiet! It had a really calm, cool feel to it, and my comfy room was really an oasis after a busy, hot day of walking around town.

Sonesta Philadelphia 

Philadelphia hotels

Like its Boston and Gwinnett counterparts, Sonesta Philadelphia brings the art theme right down to the food and beverage, featuring its own ArtBar in the hotel.

ArtBar Philly

 

art cocktails Cocktails are liquid art named after famous works-of-art. I had the “Whistler’s Mother” which was a perfect, refreshing choice for a summer day.

gin cocktail

One of the reasons I chose the dates I did was so that I could visit the pool on the 8th floor rooftop of the Sonesta Philly, and just in time for their Insta-meet, which brought together Instagrammers from all over the city for beautiful views, cocktails, and a signature Sonesta #FoodisArt spread. I ate so much!

Sonesta Philly pool

shrimp cocktail

As part of my travels to Sonesta’s hotels, getting to know the destination is also a top priority. Rittenhouse Square is simply beautiful and bustling with people, stunning architecture, and food. . . so much food! I need to go back just to eat my way around the area.

Tria Taproom has everything, including cocktails, on draft. . .

IMG_4486

Wandering around Rittenhouse made me hungry, and it was really hard to decide where to eat.

For lunch on my visit to Philly I chose The Dandelion, a completely charming little pub with fantastic food. I ate every bite of a summery tomato salad with green goddess dressing and topped it all off with a banoffee trifle, because who could pass that up?

shrimp salad

 

   banoffee trifle

Full and happy, I set off to see the city, including some of the adorable sculptures in Rittenhouse Square.Rittenhouse Square

 

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is within walking distance to the Sonesta, and it is a must-visit. First, I ran up the Rocky steps (and almost died, holy hot and humid day) and then found refuge in the massive, cool museum where I spent hours taking in masterpieces.

Rocky stairs

Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Wild exhibit by Michael Nichols goes through September 17, and it took my breath away. Photos of animals, many in the Serengeti, made me miss Africa and want to travel back again. Nichols captured the beauty, the ferocity, the vulnerability of the animals in such amazing ways that I definitely teared up a bit.

Wild by Michael Nichols

    Wild photography exhibit

The museum also features art from many of the greats, including Monet.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I was delighted to see part of one of the rooms devoted to works of Degas. Ballet was one of my first loves, and I was over-the-moon to see these pieces.

degas

The entrance fee to the Philadelphia Museum of Art includes entry to the Rodin Gallery, a short walk away, so I headed there next.

Rodin Gallery

Rodin Gallery         

Sculpture is just mesmerizing, and I sat there wondering just how these pieces were created to be so life-like and fluid. Truly amazing.

I was only in Philadelphia for 24 hours, but I was able to see and do so much, thanks to the location of my hotel. There’s still so much of the city that I want to see, and I would gladly make Sonesta Philadelphia my Philly home again.

 

My stay at the Sonesta was complimentary. All opinions are my own.

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Yesterday marked eight years of blogging in this little space, which has been a vehicle for meeting some of the best people I know. Blogging has opened up travel opportunities for me, and the networking and contact-building I have done through blogging also helped me to create my Social Media/PR/Marketing business, which has been my full time gig for two years this week!

One of the most fun parts of blogging is looking back on life in blog posts. Here are eight of my favorite life moments, in no particular order, to celebrate eight years. Thank you for reading!

Learning to bake with whole grains at King Arthur Flour

This group getaway was so much fun! We stayed in a country bed and breakfast with the whole house to ourselves, and had our own baking class at King Arthur. It was definitely a bonding experience where I made some life-long friends.

King Arthur Flour

 

Winter on Martha’s Vineyard – A true getaway at Nobnocket Boutique Inn

The winter of 2017 included some heartbreakingly stressful moments for America, and when we needed to get away from it all before we lost our minds, Martha’s Vineyard was the perfect choice. Nobnocket was cozy and luxurious and steps from Vineyard Haven’s cute little downtown. I can’t wait to go back.

 

Nobnocket Boutique Inn

 

Safari Serengeti

Our two week safari in Tanzania was a trip of a lifetime, and I would do it over and over again if I could. Africa works its way into your heart and just stays there forever.

giraffe in the Serengeti 

 

This incredible Labor Day weekend in Sonoma County

Over the last eight years we have visited Sonoma and Napa many times. (Read all the posts on my travel blog post page!). This trip stands out because of the gorgeous little cottage we rented near Healdsburg, the glorious summer heat, canoeing on the Russian River, and the fact that I didn’t work for four whole days!

Russian River Valley sunset

 

Wine tasting in Italy

While visiting family in Marche, we had a private wine tasting at Castello di Semivicoli, which was one of the best afternoons ever.

Masciarelli wine tasting 

 

Getting to go to Sonoma County for work

When I left my full time, in-house job, it was to work on an account in Sonoma County, and I got to experience some pretty spectacular tastings and events.

 

wine tasting

MacMurray Estate Vineyards

 

Spending the perfect summer day on the North Fork of Long Island

My North Fork memories are bittersweet, as the wonderful PR person, Florence, who introduced me to the region and brought me there on Cross Sound Ferry last June, passed away unexpectedly a few months later. Still, I remember this day as summer perfection, from shucking oysters, to wine on the bluff at Kontokosta, to lots of laughs in the van along the way.

lavender fields in Long Island

 

Every trip to Ireland

I tend to go on and on about Ireland, and I can’t help it. It’s definitely one of my most favorite places (along with Sonoma and coastal New England and Puerto Rico), and I feel incredibly blessed every time I get to visit.

Errisbeg

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Visiting Asheville, North Carolina has been on my list for years, and despite the fact that I have an aunt and cousin living there, I didn’t make the journey until this past August when said cousin was getting married.

When planning any travel lately, I tend to look at house rentals even before checking out local hotels. I love hotels, but for any extended period of time, and especially with a group, I have found that renting a house is comfortable, fun, and usually a great savings. Once again I consulted Flipkey for houses that would fit seven of us so my little family could all stay together.

We’ve used Flipkey a few times before, starting with this amazing Sonoma wine country cottage (a portion of which was generously covered y Flipkey) and this last minute Ipswich rental last week.

Once again, a house rental turned out to be the perfect solution. Our two story, three bedroom house was immaculate and beautiful with some stunning mountain views. It was super clean, well-stocked with all of the basics we needed, and a minute from the grocery store. We were slightly outside of downtown Asheville and closer to the wedding venue, a decision we made purposely as we knew we would be visiting the venue the day before to help out as well as the day after.

asheville  flipkey rental

The house had two living rooms and plenty of space for the kids to run around. We generally had breakfast there in the mornings and then spread out at night watching the Olympics and enjoying being together but also the space we had if we needed some time apart!

Much of the rest of the time was spent at my aunt’s house near Biltmore Village.

cottage She lives in the most charming English garden style cottage, and it was love at first sight. She has great style and has collected so many beautiful things over the years, making for a lovely space that I didn’t want to leave. The grounds were equally as beautiful and made for lots of outdoor time playing with neighborhood dogs and looking for butterflies. My aunt’s neighbor grew the flowers for the wedding, and my aunt arranged them. The day before the wedding we loaded them in the car and drove them up to the wedding venue, Sherrill’s Inn at Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

wedding flowers Hickory Nut Gap Farm The wedding venue was one of the prettiest I have been to; it included a historic home, cold spring house, plenty of green space, and horses, who were wandering around just behind the reception for most of the evening. Magical.

horses in asheville

sherill's inn

The beauty of the Asheville area didn’t end there. The day after the wedding we made the drive up to Lake Lure, through winding mountain roads taking in stunning vistas and a hot, blue sky summer day. Lake Lure was stunning and felt so relaxed, definitely a place I would like to visit again to stay for a few days. We also JUST missed the Dirty Dancing Festival by a few days; maybe a return visit for that next year?

Lake Lure  Lake Lure

We rounded out our visit to Asheville with a family dinner at Luella’s for BBQ, plates piled high with yummy BBQ meats and sides, my favorite of any BBQ meal. All paired with local Asheville beer, of course!

Luella's BBQ Luella's BBQ

Speaking of Asheville beer, you can read all about our beer tasting adventures here.

Asheville was the perfect combination of gorgeous nature, great food, music, family, and perfect weather. It’s an easy two hour flight from Boston to Charlotte and a two hour drive after that, close enough for a three day weekend, though you’ll want to stay longer!

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